Bibimbap is the safe haven of the uninitiated at Korean restaurants; all the components can be visually identified and anything that doesn't jive can be taken out (well, at least, pre-mix up mash stage). In Korean homes, though, bibimbap is like the equivalent of the sandwich: throw in whatever leftovers you got, squeeze on a dose of your favorite condiment and presto!
So, for me, it conjures up casual home meals, such as weekend lunches or anytime my mom was too busy (or not at home) to cook. So, when I go out to eat, my eyes skip over bibimbap on the menu without a second glance. Not the case yesterday, though, when I stopped in at Seungbukdong and was actually in the mood for bibimbap! Before my dolsot bibimbap arrived, the ceremonious delivery of the banchan.
Japchae, garlic and sesame oil seasoned seaweed, soybeans in a sweet soy sauce, and kimchi. My favorites were the soybeans (you wouldn't think it would be remarkable that they were tender, but in my experience, there's a 50/50 chance they won't be cooked properly) and the kimchi, which was surprisingly good. I loved the bright, sour taste and the delicate, "well-ripened" texture of the cabbage. The bean sprout soup came with the dolsot bibimbap and was a bit weak on flavor.
Bean sprouts and spicy dried squid. These were fine, take 'em or leave 'em.
All the stuff on top of the rice: spinach, mushroom, bean sprouts, ground beef, zucchini, gosari (Korean fiddlehead ferns), shredded dried seaweed and a fried egg. Add chogochujang (a slightly sweet and sour red chili pepper sauce) and get to mixing!
Which leads me to my next point: I have a new found love for the dolsot.
I never cared much for the sizzling stone pot of watch-your-fingers because the browned bits were always too chewy and just got stuck in my teeth. I realize now that those pots must not have been hot enough because that gorgeous rice crust had a crisp bite and made an instant believer out of me.
My dolsot bibimbap was a pretty big portion and I couldn't finish it; maybe some of you bibimbappers could put it away, no problem. According to Yelp, their signature dish seems to be the galbijjim (steamed beef short ribs), which I will try when I'm not flying solo.
Seungbukdong is a small restaurant with only a handful of tables and has a homey feeling with friendly service and food prepared with the level of care that is a step above similarly priced places (my dolsot bibimbap was about $10; I have to get better about writing this kind of stuff down). This place is my new go-to remedy for my Korean cravings because let's face it, one cannot subsist on food court stalls alone.
3303 W 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90020